Despite the efforts of lawyers, former co-stars and misguided pseudo-Black Nationalists who have fought desperately over the past year to protect the legacy of Bill Cosby, it has finally been revealed that in a 2005 deposition, he admitted to giving women drugs “for sex.”
For those who may be unclear, using drugs (or alcohol!) deliberately to loosen women’s inhibitions in hopes that they will either consent to sex or be unable to decline sex is rape. There’s no gray area, no “I really thought she wanted to do it too” when you provide drugs to ensure someone doesn’t, or can’t, say no.
Being mindful of the fact that Cosby has never been convicted of a crime, we can look at this deposition and the veritable clown car of alleged victims that provided very similar stories to what he offered in a sealed deposition 10 years ago and make the reasonable assumption that most, if not all, of these women are likely telling the truth. And if for no other reason but the sheer number of women who came forward, there are many, many reasonable human beings who came to this conclusion long ago. (That Beverly Johnson wasn’t enough for folks blows my mind, but my mind is often blown by patriarchy’s poisons.)
Alas, there were holdouts—Jill Scott, one of the most famous and most painfully tone-deaf among them, has now admitted that she was wrong—who refused to abandon the idea that this wasn’t an intricate plot to take down a pillar of Black manhood. Why someone would wait until he was in the twilight of his life to do so wasn’t made clear in most cases, but half-cocked fables developed to protect patriarchy aren’t as much grounded in logic as they are in the idea that certain men are infallible or above reproach. (Though there was no public information out there that suggests Cosby was attempting to purchase NBC, the YouTube University, Department of Hotep Studies theory on the matter relied upon this being true.)
Cosby has spent the past 15 years telling Black people that we’re our own worst enemy (ironically, his status as “moralist” is part of the reason the court documents were unsealed in the first place), shifting blame for our challenges away from White supremacy and promoting some of the most shortsighted respectability narratives around. You’d be more likely to sell me on the idea that there was a grand conspiracy to hide the rape allegations so that he could continue to do so. The nuanced examination of Black life we got via A Different World (and the genius of Debbie Allen) and the loving, though somewhat narrow, look at Black family life provided by The Cosby Show are not what we got from this man in recent years.
No TV executive was in fear of what Cosby may be capable of shifting in Hollywood in the 21st century, trust me.
As far as past false accusations from White women against Black men, let our need to defend innocent brothers not cloud our common sense. When the number of accusers outnumbered the Huxtable children… and the Hillman College crew… combined? Pretty safe to assume something in the Jello wasn’t clean. And that it was put there to turn a “no” into an “I can’t say no, I’m drugged.”
One of the most heartbreaking parts of this decades-long mess is that there are folks who believe Cosby to be guilty, but think that he deserves a pass because of his contributions to Black culture and Black colleges. We know how one can buy oneself out of jail, but the idea that you can “achieve” your way out of the idea of rape simply being wrong? That Black women are among those attempting to either rationalize past defense of Cosby, or continue to make excuses, is absolutely devastating.
We are tasked with defending the indefensible and protecting men who would never do the same for us, even when they don’t deserve it. And that a man who couldn’t stand up for Trayvon Martin (and who made a Notre Dame graduate cry because he finished with average grades) still has loud and proud Black male defenders speaks a terrible volume, to say the least.
For the record: if you need more proof here, but you side with male victims of police violence who have been abused or killed by officers who were legally exonerated, this is an excellent time to do some soul searching on which Black lives matter to you.
But while certain Black folks’ protection of Cosby is certainly central to this story (I’m choosing not to deal with the words of his co-stars here, because I don’t want to dismiss the possibility of certain traumas preventing them from acknowledging what this man has allegedly done over the years), it should be noted and noted again that the fact that it is rape culture that allows a man to allegedly assault many women and be protected by his industry, his family and his fans for decades.
Black people are not to blame with Cosby getting away with this; people don’t care that much what we think, and this man was beloved by millions of others. There were agents, TV execs, police officers, lawyers… a lot of hands allegedly worked to keep this man free from accountability and that is rape culture.
The circumstances here may be extraordinary (innocent Black men have been beaten, incarcerated and killed for accusations of disrespecting White women; Cosby allegedly raped a bunch of them and continued to live his best life), the victim blaming is par for the course even when non-famous men are involved:“Why did she go to his house?” “Why was she drinking?” “Why was she hanging out with him in the first place?” “What did she think was going to happen?”
I hope that this week’s reveal brings peace to women who may have been harmed by Bill Cosby. I also hope that people come to understand that any payouts that have been or will be paid don’t mean that a woman was just “looking to get rich.” Honestly, I wish that all rape victims could be paid for their suffering, especially so long as we live in a society that makes it nearly impossible to incarcerate rapists. The trauma stays with you forever. If you can pay off some bills and hit the pocket of a vile individual in one fell swoop, this should anger no reasonable human being.
As much as I hate the idea of change being borne only from the suffering of many, I do hope this new information helps us to broaden our collective understanding of rape culture and why it’s not just a thing that happens in an alley with a weapon and a cartoonish character of a “bad guy.” Rape is all around. It’s in our entertainment (and still, UEONO) and in our dorms. In our Big Mama’s houses and in our workplaces. Rape is more protected in this country than Black women, and is often given more leeway than innocent Black men get from cops. Though men are not the only ones who rape, and women are not the only victims, it must be acknowledged that we are still blaming women for getting raped and we are still acting like men (especially powerful ones) are entitled to enjoy women’s bodies as they see fit.
How long? How many more women? And what will it take for you, once and/or current Cosby defender—R. Kelly defender, Roman Polanski defender, Tyga defender—to realize that money, power, charisma and manhood do not entitle you to bodies that are unable or unwilling to consent?
Jamilah Lemieux is EBONY.com’s Senior Editor. Views here are her own.